by Maia Nichols
- View Maia Nichols's Biography
Maia Nichols is an artist and writer based in California.
Cancelled at Eastern Bloc, Montreal, July 2017
On a spit of land, may she expand. Some almonds all the more, tour du monde, when it has no objects to show. Lessons to prevent the cancellation of testimony, through texts, never end. After all, what site do these words fall before? Where a message drops is all we can make dew from. A phone call is inherently fragile, it misses the spiralling phone cord to twirl around. Too many texts are treated with blasé cynicism, in the absence of an authority that would place them into any Official Disc Course. As always, to approach, but never enter a larger sphere of power or its mocking jumpy castle. The methods are many. This morning, I held an imaginary teacup on the central arch of my right foot in attitude devant. I taught myself to always mobilise despite the endless challenges of the present, in bigger brush strokes, others do their best to legitimise currents that otherwise risk elision, this means tip toeing with enough tact and care to allow others surface, in your mind's living room, or your desk's top. It's not all ironic, there is some sincerity, like Proust's madeleine that you enjoy.
Unlikely offers the rare chance to present an issue alongside an event. Issue three pools together texts and media that perform or embody an interest in cancellation and its operation within a greater sphere of power. During the live event, held at Eastern Bloc in July 2017, these artworks created something in the space by opening their doors to deeper preoccupations, relations with existing narratives, sites, and their limits. These contributions should not be reduced to an issue of this or that, which would only cause confusion and mimic the cruelty of reducing and dominating other forms of life. I'll barely scrape a surface here.
In Meliti Kontigiorgi's performance piece, a performer sits at a table. Someone sits across from her, a gallery visitor, a passer-by. The reacting person, taken by the moment, plays the mirror she does not have and instructs her, verbally on how to remove her moustache hair. Could it be your own body, the clumsiness of having limbs and self-consciousness, and pretending to know how to direct someone, lower, lower, to the right, hmm… I don't see anything there... what if there is nothing to take out? In bodily mirroring, the awkwardness of contesting skin's productive capacities, its fluids, hairs, and marks, testimonies to its past, its endless present, others too shy, to engage, watch. The body -- with no choice but to reveal. Decades spent flipping through sketchbooks for that honest peel.
In the adjacent room at the entrance of the gallery, Ian Haig's videos of tongues writhe. Attached to electrical devices, the study of the langue, flipping and moving, a device shows you how it flicks, moves, it jumps and falls on a projector screen. The room, entirely dark, laughs at a slimy freakish wet zorro, trying desperately to fling itself outside of its own cut-up curve, no sense of its composition. It saps technology, as it tries to find a way to fight it, or with it.
Nancy Mauro-Flude's work: the receptacle of many messages, simultaneously appear, and roll away on the wall- images, texts, signs of sorts, continuous, dizzying, frictionless. Watching it turned me motionless worryingly submissive in the face of anonymity. For what else is planetary life but a surcharge that we see, each moves over time.
Alba Mayol Curci's letter, written, typed in a booklet, lies on a slim metal shelf. On the corner of a granite countertop, a glass bowl with bits of batter, a wooden spoon, having just baked a cake, a copper pipe. In a dark photo, the cake reappears, cross shaped, paper and plastic cups, empty plates and forks. The only evidence, present as clues, her text explains her relationship to the Berlaymont building through a resignation letter and sugar blues.
In the video of Jesus Mayor's phallic Agbar tower in Barcelona, the windows open and close within its bug-like appearance. The power has been reaffirmed in this critter, but then, it comes to represent any other tower, this one, an arc for a head, a metal bar, a sheet for a leg. Kutlu Gurelli's suit, the statuettes, never arrived at Eastern Bloc. Instead images of emails were printed, in this way, doing my best to preserve a feeling of Gurelli's presence/absence in the place, his emails always bursting with care, the journal presents his writing to express his views on art and education, the private and the public, concealment and the Turkish word for void, bosh.
In Peter Burke's participatory experiment, a man walking along -- briefcase in hand -- drops papers in the middle of crosswalks in Shanghai, and Tokyo. His writing pulls from theories on theatre and socially engaged art.
Zeno May D. Recidoro writes about the re-purposed space of the Bulwagan ng Dangal University Heritage Museum, in the University of the Philippines, Quezon City, where she was a museum assistant until August of this year, In its initial years, the building advocated the American colonial presence within the building and the educational system, compromising local culture. The cause of fire to the cafeteria and the faculty centre in 2015 is unknown to this day. Two exhibitions at the museum are commented on through questions about heritage.
Jahnne Pasco-White's contribution is a photo-essay pivoting around Merri Creek in East Bruswick, the site of his large-scale painting made of a composite of earth, natural and construction materials, developed in Coburg, Melbourne, that erodes over time and is inspired by chance and conversational elements of painting and dance composition. Very much about rhythm and the way that a site registers a composition of voices and vacancies over time through touch, more than anything. Her essay shows how agency is co-authored and distributed across her painting that becomes compost.
Alice Desmond examines cancellation proofs in the National Gallery of Australia's Kenneth Tyler Print Collection, which holds cancellation prints made by Kenneth Tyler. Cancellation proofs were created to allow limited edition print works to become more valuable, though this economy has been thwarted through fakes sold for limited edition price. The print works of David Hockney, Jasper Johns, and Robert Motherwell challenge the notion that an image’s cancellation is inherently a means of defacement. Desmond posits these are creations that go beyond serving as evidence of bureaucratic power.
Manuel Lima's essay discusses the role of lecture performance and how the institutionalisation is within us, discussing a range of works including Jerome Bel and Xavier le Roy. Lima brings up the importance of presence in a teaching environment, in dance, and in speech.
In these reflections on surface we are reminded about how the earth always holds points of contact between our body and the earth's body. Meditating on the place where exhale turns around and becomes inhale, and resting on this. In Gurdjieff's system, air is one of the three foods that sustains the human organism; the other two are the foods themselves and then the impressions we receive. Air is the active force, while food is passive, and the impressions we collect are reconciling. Slowly learning that meaning is not literal, that you might find sincerity in your search for irony.
Most of what we gauge from an artwork comes from the space, and Eastern Bloc was just right, it didn't provide much in the way of showiness. From outside, the building was non-descript, one had to know where one was going. Plus, the artists were left to their own devices. I tried to signal little, evade stage managing, in the same way that it’s impossible to disappear, it's impossible to cancel something you're committed to, much as you thought the whole thing would remain a fiction, even once publicly revealed. The art world circulates on a lot of ambiguity, and this is the kind of thing I was hoping not to press on, as it’s the vector taken up by most art that tries to be subversive, that still thinks it’s a spy, travels using the moon as a flashlight, everything is transactional, the archaeology of the void, and on and on -- is this better than the gentrification of peripheral subjects? What can we ever be doing but operating from an inside, even if it is not the inside? The dominant falls into its own suspended absence, it can only exist satirizing itself. The sun sucks us in to orbit around it, hoping for a fairy tale that ends where this time, doubt chews you up and spits you out - walks away empty handed. Drop your tongue from the roof of your mouth, and you are on your way.